Travel blogger Bryony of travelsandmore shares why Cartagena, Colombia, is the best destination for a luxe-for-less getaway, and reveals her insiders tips.
As a budget backpacker I know that luxury comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. As a lover of premium experiences and backpacking, living life on the road can be tricky. It’s always a welcome refreshment when you hit a destination that offers you the luxury you know and love for less, especially one where you are planning to stay a while.
Whether it’s two nights in a luscious boutique hotel, a bottle of decent wine over dinner or a round of cocktails in a bar you’ve walked passed all week. Luxury for less is something that’s always on my mind whenever I arrive in a new destination and Cartagena was no exception.
That’s why upon arriving in Cartagena, Colombia I realised it was the ideal luxury for less backpacker hot spot.
The mass of other backpackers exploring Calle Media Luna only reconfirmed this feeling. Being on a budget doesn’t always mean being on a budget. Especially when you find yourself in a location that allows you to indulge without busting your budget. I instantly knew Cartagena was the place for me, and stuck to the Getsemani neighborhood for its edgy vibe and discount price tag.
Cartagena is filled with a wide range of opportunity to seek some luxury for a little less.
Where else can you find yourself on the white sandy shores of a picturesque Caribbean paradise beach after taking an air conditioned bus ride for a few dollars?
Is there anywhere else in Colombia you can eat 3 courses of the finest freshest fish and fruit you’ve ever tasted from a beach shack and not worry about paying more than $10?
All this and more makes Cartagena a truly irresistible destination for those of us who are budget savvy but still love the good life during our trips.
Cartagena provides a certain budget luxury that is very rarely found in Latin America. From the wet and grey sands of the Boca Grande to the more aesthetically pleasing Old Walled City. Cartagena boasts a wide spectrum of quality and luxury that can’t always be found on the road, especially across South America.
I arrived in Cartagena during the Christmas holiday period, a time infamous for inflating tourist’s destination costs. Not in Cartagena! It was rare to see prices sky-rocket as Cartagena during Christmas is a haven for Colombian families. Its always a good sign to see locals eating and drinking in the popular bars and restaurants. Is it any wonder Colombian nationals flock to this coastal town to celebrate Christmas? Perhaps its the allure of icy cold drinks and sunsets with no premium price tag.
Don’t get me wrong, like any destination you can find overpriced eateries and accommodation in Cartagena. It is a tourist favourite after all. But with a little intuition you can certainly find all the bliss of a true five star experience in this Colombian nirvana. If the locals love it and the backpackers stay for longer than planned you can always guarantee there’s a reason why. Cost is usually a huge factor.
Luxe-For-Less Insider Tips:
- Forget the crammed public transport of Central America, air conditioned cabs are a plenty in Cartagena and they’ll never break the bank. A cab ride around the city will only set you back a few Colombian Pesos.
- Street food can be a thing of the past, at least for a little while. Eating out in Cartagena is reasonable. Many well established tourist restaurants offer enough of a finer style of dining to make you forget the woes of your hostel. Locals eat here too, that’s always a good sign.
- Speaking of hostels, why not book into a private room and give the dorms a miss. 1 night for two people with a private bathroom in a hostel with a pool, (try Media Luna Hostel there’s also one in the Caribbean paradise of Isla Baru).
- Looking for high ticket luxury excursions for less to Isla Baru, don’t book an organised boat. Take the bus from Calle Media Luna and pay a fraction of the price to have the same experience (minus the boat).
- Beach cocktails at the Boca Grande and Isla Baru can add up, but the beer is golden, icy and cheap. Return to the same bartender multiple times and don’t be shocked if you aren’t rewarded with an extra strong Pina Colada for your loyalty!
- Grab a cocktail from the hipster pop-up cocktail truck outside the Old Walled City and don’t be scared to ask for it extra strong!
- Dining out? Three course meals? Try Getsemani the edgier cooler neighborhood outside of the Old Walled City. Bakeries, Italian and even Argentinian steak houses can be found here.
- Shopping? Leave the Old Walled City and visit Cartagena’s shopping mall by the Bocagrande – we ended up visiting twice. Even better why not head to the market for a real bargain?
(all images courtesy of Bryony Clapperton)
Visit Bryony’s blog travelsandmore.